MIDDLEBURG – Middleburg’s Jayden Jenkins threw for two scores and ran for another, but it was not enough to lift the Broncos into the win column as host Middleburg dropped a 35-20 decision to …
MIDDLEBURG – Middleburg’s Jayden Jenkins threw for two scores and ran for another, but it was not enough to lift the Broncos into the win column as host Middleburg dropped a 35-20 decision to Ponte Vedra and quarterback Ben Burk on September 16.
Burk accounted for five touchdowns, three passing and two rushing, as the Sharks rolled up 435 yards in total offense. The junior completed his first nine passes, six of them on Ponte Vedra’s opening drive, a 13-play, 66 yard march during which he converted three third downs.
The offenses ruled the first half, in which neither team punted. Middleburg took the opening kickoff and scored in just three plays. Mike Mitchell, in action again after serving a two-game suspension, got behind the defense on a post pattern and caught a perfectly thrown bomb from Jenkins for 66 yards and a 7-0 lead.
Ponte Vedra knotted the game at 7 on a five-yard pass from Burk to Landon Okra on a third and goal to go.
Seven running plays later, Middleburg regained the advantage when Jenkins faked a handoff to Mitchell, took off inside the left end and raced 16 yards to the end zone, dragging Sharks safety Bryson Hubbard across the goal line.
The Broncos’ Joe Forte forced a fumble with a big hit on the ensuing kickoff, recovering the ball himself at the Ponte Vedra 44 yard line. However, Middleburg failed to capitalize on the turnover when T.J. Lane gained only one yard on a third and eight from the Sharks’ 14 yard line and Wade Mathis missed a 30 yard field goal attempt wide left.
The Sharks took over and drove 80 yards to tie the game on a 10 yard scramble by Burk.
The game’s turning point came as Middleburg was poised to answer, having quickly driven 50 yards to the Ponte Vedra 16 yard line. Mitchell swept left and had already gained 12 yards when, struggling for extra yardage, the ball came loose. Linebacker Trooper Price fell on it for the Sharks at the four yard line.
“There were two guys holding me, and one of them punched it [the ball] out,” explained Mitchell after the game.
The two empty trips to the red zone proved fateful for the Broncos, who found themselves down 28-14 when Burk outran the Middleburg secondary to the near pylon from 12 yards out on the final play of the first half and connected with Nathan Bunkowski on an out and up for an 18 yard touchdown to cap the first drive of the third quarter.
“Other teams capitalize on their opportunities. We get opportunities and we squander them,” Middleburg head coach Ryan Wolfe said of his Broncos, who fell to 0-4.
Facing a two-touchdown deficit, Jenkins, who threw only three passes in the first half, made 16 throws in the second half, completing five of them. After combining to rush for 116 yards on 21 carries in the first half, Mitchell and Lane combined for only three rushes and eight yards over the final two quarters.
“When you get down by 14, you have to start chasing points,” said Wolfe. “It changes your game plan a little bit. We had to throw more than we wanted to.”
Burk connected with Okra for a second touchdown, this one on a deep slant from 29 yards out, to give Ponte Vedra a 35-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. Jenkins then made a terrific play to give the Broncos hope for a comeback. From the Ponte Vedra 27 yard line, the junior broke a tackle in the pocket, spun out of the grasp of a second Sharks lineman and threw a strike to Toshombee Jenkins streaking across the end zone. Mathis’ extra point attempt was wide right, so the score remained 35-20 with 3:39 remaining.
Ponte Vedra’s Griffin Owen recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Sharks’ Brian Case converted a third and 15 with an 18 yard run that enabled the visitors to run out the clock.
Burk finished with 18 completions on 24 attempts for 201 yards and ran for 53 of the Sharks’ 234 rushing yards.
“We just were not very sound,” Wolfe said of his defense. “We had guys getting out of their gaps, guys freelancing. On defense, it is really just as simple as ‘Everybody has a job, and if everybody does their job, the play works.’”
Jenkins finished with eight completions on 19 throws for 173 yards. Mitchell, a Utah commit, led all rushers with 78 yards on 17 carries and led all receivers with 79 yards on two catches.
Middleburg faces another stiff challenge this Friday when they travel to Jacksonville Ribault (3-1). Kickoff is at 6:00.
“The kids still have a lot of fight left in them,” said Wolfe. “They know that our schedule is not a joke. Including the kickoff classic, we have played five playoff teams, including two that will compete for a state title. But everything we want is still ahead of us.”
Bunkowski led Ponte Vedra, who improved to 1-2, with 73 rushing yards and 68 receiving yards. The Sharks host St. Augustine Pedro Menendez Friday
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